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This Isn’t The First Time Ilia Calderon Has Made History For Being The First Afro-Latina In Such A High Position

During its 55-year history, Univision has never had an Afro-Latina host on their prime-time news roster. But that all changes now.

This is Ilia Calderón, the first Afro-Latina to anchor an evening newscast for a major broadcaster in the U.S.

Comenzamos #EdiciónNocturna

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Calderón has been a broadcast journalist for two decades, and was also the first Afro-Latina to host a national news program in Colombia, her native country.

Starting Dec. 11, Calderón will be co-anchoring Univision Network’s flagship evening newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” along with Jorge Ramos on weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Calderón is replacing María Elena Salinas, who is leaving her position at Univision after 36 years.

“It is a great honor and an enormous responsibility for me to sit in María Elena Salinas’s anchor chair,” Calderón said in a press release. “María Elena has been an invaluable voice for the Hispanic community in this country, an icon of excellence in journalism and a role model for millions of Latinas, so I know I have big shoes to fill. I’m very excited to accept this new challenge as co-anchor of Hispanic America’s most trusted newscast. To the millions of loyal viewers of ‘Noticiero Univision,’ I promise to give you my very best every evening, continuing to honor Univision’s commitment to inform and empower Hispanic America like no other news organization in the American media landscape.”

Calderón is bi-racial and from a culturally diverse family. She’s from the Chocó region of Colombia.

#myrock #mywomen . Mi mamá @bettychamat y mis hermanas @beatrizcch y @lizchamat / #fbf navidad 2015

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“Ilia’s professionalism and experience, together with her personal charisma, journalistic integrity, knowledge of the U.S. Hispanic community and proven appeal with our diverse audience make her the ideal person to succeed María Elena Salinas,” Daniel Coronell, Univision News president said in a press release.

The 45-year-old journalist is married and also has a daughter.

Una escapadita del trabajo para celebrar en familia.

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In 2013, Calderón spoke about how had problems conceiving naturally.

Being a mother had always been my dream,” Calderón wrote in a personal essay for ABC News. “A dream that was threatened when, after a regular check-up, my gynecologist told me about the worrying size of some fibroids inside my uterus. My whole world fell apart, but luckily, he managed to save my fertility during those three years until I was in the perfect condition to be a mother.”

Calderón joined Univision in 2007 and worked on “Primer Impacto” and most recently on “Noticiero Univision: Edición Nocturna.”

Buenas tardes ??

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In August 2017, the Emmy Award-winning journalist made news herself after interviewing Ku Klux Klan leader Chris Barker in his home in North Carolina for a special edition of “Aquí y Ahora.”

Congrats, Ilia!

Golden Globes / NBC

READ: The Interview Between Ilia Calderón And A KKK Member Took A Scary Turn, Fast

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Ilia Calderón’s Promotion At Univision Matters When It Comes To Black Representation In Latino Media

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Ilia Calderón’s Promotion At Univision Matters When It Comes To Black Representation In Latino Media

With the appointment of rock star news journalist Ilia Calderón, to co-anchor the primetime “Noticiero Univisión,” racial justice and media activists have scored a monumental victory.

Gracias @univisionny . Encantada de estar aqui disfrutando de esta comunidad maravillosa.

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Starting in December, Calderón will succeed the legendary María Elena Salinas to host alongside the iconic Jorge Ramos. This is unprecedented here, and probably everywhere, except in parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Noticiero Univisión’s new co-anchor is Black.

Calderón and I were teens when, in 1987, Salinas became co-anchor to Ramos, who took the post just a year prior. Both are white and of Mexican extraction. Growing up, neither Calderón’s native Colombia nor my Dominican Republic had news anchors that reflected us.

But guess who became her own hero on national Colombian television? Calderón eventually landed in Miami and at Telemundo in 2001. A decade later, she was hosting Univisión’s late news edition. Next month, that will be her old job.  

Victoria Arzú, from Proyecto Más Color (PMC), reacted to the news happily but with caution. Since its founding in 2014, PMC has targeted Univisión and Telemundo, the two largest Spanish language networks in the U.S. The organization protests degradation and invisibility in the portrayal of Afro and Indigenous Latinxs, and others, and demands change. As Arzú puts it, “the media is the window to the outside world for so many of our people. It has a responsibility to show the reality, the true colors of Latin America.”

“I’m content about it but not satisfied,” says Arzú. “[Ilia] has already been broadcasting on national news and it’s a face people know. I think they’re trying to do that to appease critics but they’re not doing enough.”

Arzú believes that the media will “suffer the consequences” if they fail to include Afro-Latinos, especially considering the African influence “that has made Latin America what it is today.”

While there is cause for celebration, many factors were likely involved in the decision to hire Calderón. The bottom line is that the policies, practices and programming of these networks have attracted attention. And advertising dollars, shareholders and the race to stay relevant in the digital era are at the heart of their priorities.

I suspect many influences that include the activism of PMC, bloggers such as NegrawithTumbao and other issues at play, like:

1) The reputation of racism that led an executive in the early 1990s to warn Cuban-born veteran reporter for Telemundo, Lori Montenegro, then a newbie, that “when those Mexicans [at her new job at Univisión] saw a Black woman, she wouldn’t last six months.

2) The outstanding Telemundo miniseries “Celia,” about Celia Cruz, which featured a respectably-sized cast of Afrodescendants. It created the expectation in non-white audiences of greater representation.

3) Former Univisión host and fashion reporter Rodner Figueroa’s temporary downfall in 2015 after making an infamous joke live on air comparing then First Lady Michelle Obama to apes. He was fired at Univisión, but just hired at Telemundo.

4) Univisión’s purchase of The Root, the largest outlet for African-American news, chaired by Harvard scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, producer of the PBS documentary “Black in Latin America.”

Lastly, Calderón’s weekly news journal, “Aquí y Ahora,” produced “En la Boca del Lobo” (in the wolf’s mouth) this summer, exposing the twin evils of anti-Black racism and xenophobia.

Many viewers found themselves witnesses and vicarious targets of Calderón’s ordeal.

Credit: Univisión

Facing a vicious KKK leader, who had agreed to be interviewed apparently unaware of the anchor’s identity, she endured hate speech via the N-word, hearing that immigrants deserved death and getting threatened with arson if she didn’t leave the premises—all while exhibiting unimaginable restraint. In an era of white supremacist savagery, both networks also compete to improve their own long-tarnished image on diversity, equity and progress.

This is not to take away from Calderón, who is impressive in her own right. Her qualities have been demonstrated by her Emmy, the successful juggling of three simultaneous and challenging roles at Univisión and the love and respect of many.

Ilia’s impassioned and extensive March 2015 letter,  written in Spanish and soon after translated to English and shared widely, was triggered by Figueroa and earned her a loyal base. She wrote:

I worry about the world in which I live, but I worry even more about the world in which my daughter will live. One day, in a park, a boy tells a girl: ‘You’re ugly, you’re black’. Her response was more intelligent than we could have imagined, ‘then your heart is the color of my skin’. What grief to know that at seven years old, she had to learn to answer like that. Once, the 5-year old daughter of the manager of a company for which I worked told me, ‘Do not touch me, you are black’…

We are full of ‘little phrases’ that have become so common, that we accept them without thinking of the consequence and the damage it can cause others. Dr. Maya Angelou said it right: “People will forget what you do. People will forget what you say. But never forget how you made them feel.“ And it happens every day, at all times, and without us noticing.

Through the statement, she challenged Latinxs to watch out for hatred and discrimination while demanding respect and dignity for groups aggrieved by casual prejudices, including same-sex couples and her own daughter, who is of Black and East Asian parentage. The journalist becomes the conscience of the marginalized, along the way asking more of her followers as humans and parents.

She said to People Chica that it’s a great responsibility knowing she’s opening doors for other generations. Not only for journalists, but for other girls and women who want to succeed at what they do.

Comenzamos #EdiciónNocturna

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“My commitment is not only to the Afro-Hispanic community but to the Hispanic community in general,” she says.

It’s obvious that Calderón has earned this, and that, like us, has been waiting. Given what she’s shown us so far, we’ve never needed her more. In so many ways.


READ: This Isn’t The First Time Ilia Calderón Has Made History For Being The First Afro-Latina In Such A High Position

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